the internet is unbelievable, pt. 41,748,691,326
it's crazy what you can learn, if you want to learn it.
looking back, i feel very lucky to have had many of the learning opportunities i've had, and certainly as i've gotten older - not to mention, moved from the hyper-saturated + overprivileged east coast to the comparatively infrastructure-less (i exaggerate... a bit) center of the country - i've come to appreciate much moreso just how valuable these experiences were, and how rare having access to them can be.
when i was younger, i tried to take guitar and piano lessons a few times and didn't ever gel with them; i found them unfun and stifling compared to exploring the instruments by myself. but even though i never stuck with anything past the first couple weeks, the ideas of how i could use something called 'technique' to have more control over the instrument, and how direct a relationship there was between one and the other, were starting to form.
once i was a little older and very dedicated to and immersed in music, there were three things that really helped me along:
i took a five week open enrollment summer music performance course at a major music school: berklee college of music in boston
i (didn't complete, but) took a few semesters of a 'music production and engineering'-type program at a small college in south florida
i interned (and eventually worked for a little bit) at a small recording studio
the berklee program was a major turning point for me. when i had been jamming with my friends at home or working on my own music, there really hadn't been much in the way of pressure or expectation. but in this environment, there was competition, ambition, talent all around me. i was easily the weakest link in the handful of ensembles i played with and, as a drummer, this was not a comfortable position to be in. i would constantly get dirty looks from the people i was playing with as i flubbed fills and dropped the tempo. it was a garbage feeling. all of a sudden it didn't feel ok to just play how i had been playing. i started to notice all the numerous moments in my playing where i wasn't in control of the time or groove or dynamics, and i realized i had to get a lot better to call myself a musician and feel good about it.
the college classes were... ok. i had applied to berklee for real but didn't get in, and i ended up at a small school in florida with a decent little program for audio engineering that for sure attracted some talented people but it wasn't anything too special, certainly nothing world class like berklee. still, it was nice to again be surrounded by music students, and it kept my immersion going. i made a few connections there and took some music theory and composition courses (that felt very ungraspable at the time) and that's probably most of what i got out of it.
the internship was pretty defining for me though. now, this was a tiny underdeveloped studio in suburban south florida. we had no fancy gear or high end clients; it was just a little square control room and booth (with some rehearsal rooms attached, which were the majority of the place's business). we did a lot of metal, which tbh has never been a favorite genre of mine, and i was pretty green and unexperienced working with clients. i did have decent knowledge of music production software though, an area in which the studio owner was perhaps a little bit behind the times, so i was quickly able to add value to some writing and production sessions by pulling up sounds, doing drum programming, figuring out tech issues, etc. and soon enough i was running sessions for bands and singers and rappers and had found my life's path.
maybe these things sound a little exclusive or expensive, and maybe they are. i don't think anyone needs to spend absurd amounts money on music school, certainly not on a whole multi year program. but, i can't lie to you either - just a couple weeks in an environment like berklee was pretty life changing for me. the motivation to get better that i felt there? it's hard to find elsewhere.
seeking out places where there are active, working, hustling musicians gives you a picture of what people are capable of, of what the bar really is. unless you live in one of a handful of (very expensive) cities already, it may be hard to find a scene like this without going out of your way a bit. i personally don't think you have to up and relocate to a big crazy city to make a career, depending on what you're aiming for, but it's realllly worth experiencing something like this once, if you can.
on the other hand, the small college i went to? i'm not sure i learned much there beyond what i had already learned via my own initiative, and essentially nothing compared to interning. this school wasn't a highly competitive environment. it didn't attract world class talent. they mainly provided technical instruction - which is so easily available it's not worth paying for imo - and a few labs and studios to play around in. based on my experiences and what i've heard from friends and colleagues working in the industry for a while, i don't think most music schools are much worth attending unless they have a reputation like berklee or the small handful of others in that league.
one unspoken thread through all these experiences though is that i was so into music, i was constantly seeking knowledge outside of institutions. before things like youtube existed there were still resources online like message boards and blogs, there were books and magazines about all sorts of fields of music to read, there was new software to play with all the time, there was new and old music to listen to and new ways to access it online, there were people who turned me on to different styles of music, ways of playing, music scenes, etc. music was my whole life for years, and everything i did was a learning experience.
the access people have to music education today is nuts - the amount of knowledge and resources available on the internet, often for free, is just so completely unprecedented and it barely gets acknowledged. it's far beyond what i had access to at the time. there are just so, so many people out there sharing amazing information, and a lot of them are people with massive levels of talent, understanding and experience.
the trend in internet content has been towards the open, unpolished and continuous for a while now. in 2020, especially with the whole world shacked up at home, it's super common for artists, producers, engineers, etc. to have livestreams on a regular basis from their actual workspaces, where viewers can eavesdrop on their process, ask questions, connect with other people who share their same interests and so on. it's not exactly the same as being in the room, sure, but it's way closer to the experience of the kind of environment i was talking about above: you can totally surround yourself with people who actively love what you love, who put you on to things you didn't know about, who are completely immersed in music, and constantly debating and conversing and opining about every angle of music, musicianship, and musicality.
there are so many generous instructors and content creators out there, it would be excessive to shout them all out. i've learned a lot from this channel called gospel musicians that has many years of top notch keyboard- and theory-centric instruction and demonstration in their archives. because so much of my musical taste traces to video game music, i really like 8-bit music theory. one i absolutely must mention: if you don't already watch adam neely's videos, you're seriously missing out. he does a lot of deep dives into fun, weird, and historical niches, while also linking together communities of musicians, and sharing a ton of his experiences as a working bassist. his channel exhibits so much of the exact kinds of energy, passion and insight that you would previously only be able to access by paying a huge tuition to an expensive school. it's really unbelievable that resources like these videos are freely accessible to everybody. take advantage of them!
finally, always get together with people and work on new things. learning by doing is the best part of the process. everything you discover is hard fought and feels like your own personal victory.
keep collaborating! and never stop learning.
#philosophy #words- 2 toasts